On Monday, March 16, members of the Bayou la Batre Police Department responded to a reported break-in at the city’s fire department, which sits adjacent from City Hall on at 13775 S. Wintzell Ave.
According to reports from both police and fire department officials, there were no signs of forced entry and computer towers and hard files seemed to be the only thing the thieves were after — overlooking petty cash, electronics, televisions and monitors within the department.
Though the actual model of the computers isn’t known at this time, Fire Chief John Wiggins said they weren’t new. He also said it didn’t appear the thieves “were after money.”Wiggins said some of his personal files and his computer were taken along with the computer of Assistant Fire Chief James Payne.
Both Wiggins and Payne said they weren’t sure what anyone would want with their computers, but did confirm the devices would have contained information pertaining to the city’s Insurance Service Office (ISO) rating and documentation for several grants the department has received.
The city’s fire grants were recently scrutinized after it was revealed City Clerk Jaime Abastoflor moved $10,000 from a grant account into the city’s general fund. Those funds have since been replaced via a loan obtained by Abastoflor and Mayor Brett Dungan that has come under intense scrutiny from the Bayou la Batre City Council.
“All of our fire grant information was on those computers, mine as well as Jimmy’s,” Wiggins said. “Every fire grant we’ve acquired is on these computers. If money come out of any fire grant account, that information was on these computers.”
That being said, no one within the fire department or the police department has officially connected the theft of the computers to the recent interest in the city’s grants. Wiggins even said he didn’t think that was the case, saying he felt it was most likely a “personal attack” against him or James Payne.
Police Chief Cliff Adams said as of Tuesday morning, there had been no arrests and no leads in the case. According to Wiggins, the Fire Department doesn’t have any video surveillance equipment, but building nearby do.
On Monday, he said authorities were working to review those tapes.